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Researchers involved with Moonv6, the world’s largest native IPv6 test bed, have demonstrated that the Network Time Protocol runs over IPv6, the long anticipated upgrade to the Internet’s main protocol.
Moonv6 is a joint operation of the University of New Hampshire, the U.S. Defense Department, the North American IPv6 Task Force and the Internet2 university consortium. Moonv6 was founded in 2002 and consists of 80 servers, switches and routers located at 10 military and university sites that span from New Hampshire to Arizona.
Companies involved in the latest Moonv6 tests include Fortinet, QLogic, Nominum, Check Point, Extreme, Spectracom, Agilent, IBM and Lucent.
In a series of tests run in July, the Moonv6 team focused on the NTP, which is used to synchronize the timing of network equipment for regular network operations as well as antihacking and disaster recovery efforts. NTP ensures that all devices on a network are synchronized to Universal Coordinated Time (UTC).
Moonv6 researchers set up a wide-area link between the University of New Hampshire and the military’s Joint Interoperability Test Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. to run NTP over both regular IP (known as IPv4) and the emerging IPv6.
"This is the first time anyone has demonstrated NTP over an IPv6 WAN," says Erica Williamsen, an IPv6 engineer at the UNH Interoperability Lab. "Both sites were able to synchronize time."
Capt. Jeremy Duncan, a communications interoperability and integration officer with the U.S. Marine Corps, says Fort Huachuca had two servers running NTP, one server running IPv6 and the other running IPV4. Both servers were doing updates via NTP, which was tested in native IPv6 and dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 modes.
"It worked fine," Duncan says. "We didn’t see any issues functionally."
Glenn Burdett, new business development manager with Moonv6 participant Spectracom, says the researchers also tested management services such as the use of Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Version 6 with NTP running over IPv6.
"We did other network protocol tests such as syslog and symmetric key," Burdett says. "The bulk of the testing was to prove out NTP, to make sure that machines could be synched up over the LAN and the WAN."
Burdett says NTP is a critical component of network operations for government agencies such as the Defense Department and enterprises with vital computer security needs.
Spectracom sells an NTP appliance called the 9200 Series NetClock Time Server.
"To support information assurance, you want a hardware appliance for NTP that provides highly reliable time synchronization for routers, switches, virus scrubbers, domain controllers, etc.," Burdett says. "If there is any network glitch or vulnerability or some sort of question in your network, you want to know that all the logs have been synchronized to UTC down to microsecond accuracy."
NTP is used with security protocols such as Kerberos, which requires host computers to be time synchronized, as well as time-sensitive applications such as stock trading, streaming video and 911 calls.